“You see, my aunt’s coming on Saturday, dear,” said Mrs Brown, “and I keep putting off telling your father. He does so hate having people staying in the house.”
William’s brow wove itself into an intricate pattern as he pondered on the situation. “Couldn’t you sort of hide her up somewhere in secret without him knowing?” he suggested at last. “Same as people did with exiles an’ Cavaliers an’ rebels an’ Roundheads in hist’ry.”
When William’s father is having one of his characteristic meltdowns about household finances, he rather misguidedly ponders the possibility of taking in a “paying guest”, ie a lodger. William considers this to be an excellent idea, especially once he discovers that his neighbours have a paying guest who regularly supplies the children of the household with ice-cream.
So he sets out to find one, and in these days before Rightmove.com, he goes for the fairly direct approach of walking up to the first stranger he sees in the village and asking, “’Scuse me, are you a PG?” Unfortunately she is, and was on her way to her new host family until William diverts her to his.
Mr Brown snatched up another bill. “Why does that boy have to have a new pair of shoes every day of the year?” he roared.
“He doesn’t dear,” said Mrs Brown, “but sometimes things happen to them.”
“They sort of got caught up in a bonfire,” explained William apologetically.
Mr Brown is not especially surprised to see this prim elderly lady walk up his driveway, because he’s been expecting a visit from his wife’s aunt (they’ve never met), and this woman confirms all his worst fears.
Miss Privet went to the bed and felt the mattress. “Reasonably comfortable,” she said.
Mr Brown gulped and swallowed and again, by a supreme effort of will, managed to remain silent.
Miss Privet was now switching the bedside light on and off. “Too strong,” she said. “I like a twenty-five watt bulb for the bedside light.” She opened the cupboard that contained the overflow of Mrs Brown’s wardrobe. “I shall need all this space. Will you please have all these clothes removed?”
Mr Brown’s face was purple with his efforts at self control.
It all gets sorted out eventually (and to Mr Brown’s delight, the real aunt is a dream guest compared to Miss Privet), but not before William’s tried some complicated scheme involving dressing up as a spaceman to scare the unwanted paying guest away.